Thursday, August 30, 2012



The educators among us know too well the term “child centered;” most parents do too. We are used to think of it as a good thing, as a progressive, liberal (I know there is a huge difference but for the sake of this little blog entry excuse my generalizations) buzz word. But is it?
I recently changed pre-school for my 3.5 years old son, for different reasons. As a Waldorf advocate I strongly believe this is the very best education a child can have, but as a philosopher of education I also know there is no single system/method/approach that is good for 100% of the children, and as a mindful parent I couldn’t not notice that my son - showing clear analytic-thinking signs and a growing interest in {sigh} technology, numbers and letters - needs an environment that includes those aspects in their daily rhythm. For this and other reasons (religious, financial, location), I signed both my son and my 15 years old daughter to a Jewish Pre-school that is considered as “the best.”  
But as it turned out, what’s best for some parents can be others’ educational nightmare.  
Upon entering the building one can notice that it is an institutional business, one with good intentions, nevertheless a business whose clients are the paying, influential parents, not their children. The adults in the building outnumber the children, and this is in a place with a long waiting list and over-populated classrooms. The light is an office-like florescent, and so are the grey carpets. The space is mmm…sterile. The discourse…..oy….since when ”teachers” and “curriculum” became part of the toddler’s lives? The “schedule” (really, no “routine” here, it is a strict schedule that follows a digital clock, packed with structured time (apparently “free play” is interpreted into having a “choice” between the beads table and the rubber-shape one…). All this is was enough to make me cry over the weekend, not sure as for how to rescue my children. And then there is the Art Work.
When I first came to this place I couldn’t not notice the vast amount of art work everywhere, allegedly made by children. First, I don’t believe this, I don’t believe that the glass-mobile or the hand-made stuffed birds on the tree have been made by 3 or even 4 years old children. It has been made by their teachers, which is absolutely fine, so why deny it? As for the “art” actually made by children, on the very first week it is already all over the place. The children are engaged in “activities” all the time (parents: “we don’t pay for our children to nap” – so those who stay after 12, don’t…).
What is the message we convey to children by hanging their projects {grrr} everywhere? We convey that they are the center of our world, that their scribbles worth the world to us: those who pay and need to have something to brag about over our Lattes. So in a sense they are the center, like the sun they supposed to keep us warm and shine. What a huge responsibility for a toddler is that.
Furthermore, what we fail to teach them when we put them at the center is humility, hope and a sense of belonging to the human community as a whole. We fail to teach them that they are part of an ongoing human dialogue in which art, music, philosophy – are all part of the humanistic building. By not hanging any real art work or an object that is meaningful for the adult who works with them all day, we turn them into self-absorbed, entitled brats, the ones that 5 years later we don’t know what to do with.
Instead of putting them at the center as if they were the sun itself, we need to show them that we all fragments of this great light which is greater than the sum of its parts. Instead of spoiling them on the one hand in the name of “they are only children” and then expect them to know, learn and act like adults, we need to honor what they are: little children, with a relatively small vocabulary, short attention span, limited bodily control, and a lot of confusion stirred with wonder. 

The Good: 

First, staying close to my own children: i have decided to pick up my son, who although signed for full days, complains (and acts) to be tired and hence aggravated, at noon, the time i pick my baby girl anyway. This way he can either take a much-needed long nap or at least enjoy some quits time.
Also, i try to advocate for children's right for a slow, playful rhythm within my community, e.g  beginning to create a happy and healthy space for the toddlers in our synagogue. Finally, i gave kids' clothing and toys to different families instead of simply dropping everything by Goodwill store.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Here we go...

OK, so I'm trying to took me by surprise to first know i want to engage myself on the internet, secondly that i want to do it by blogging, and that this is the blog i want to create. By the time i finalized it with myself it took me another week to figure out how to start, technically speaking. You got it, I'm not a tech-savvy person....I'm one of the 5 people without a Facebook....

anyway, this blog is really about everything that I consider important in life, and I'm in a good company....Plato said it before me, as well as a few Jewish sages. What i am referring to is the triptych of human experience, or the essential triptych for the journey after meaning in life: The True, The Beautiful and The Good.

My "plan" here is to explore different tidbits of life, sometime small particles that are yet so fundamental to who we are and how we all share the experience of living, e.g.: bread, toys, water. On other occasions it will be an exploration of a more obscure concepts, e.g. time, relationships, emotions.

Whether it will be an exploration of what seems to be a mundane "thing" or a deep Idea, I attempt to explore it from three different angles, i.e.: The True, The Good and the Beautiful.

In the True I will meditate (briefly) on the "topic du-jour," in the Beautiful i will bring an image which i have encounters during the time-frame of exploring the topic, and in the Good i will report on one good deed i did (pun not intended) that again, is related to the topic explored at the time.

I hope some of you will find the time to join my journey.